Harlan Jay Ellison (born May 27, 1934) is an American writer. His principal genre is speculative fiction.
His published works include over 1,700 short stories, novellas, screenplays, teleplays, essays, a wide range of criticism covering literature, film, television, and print media. He was editor and anthologist for two ground-breaking science fiction anthologies, Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions. Ellison has won numerous awards including multiple Hugos, Nebulas and Edgars.
Ellison was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 27, 1934, the son of Serita (née Rosenthal) and Louis Laverne Ellison, a dentist and jeweler. His Jewish family subsequently moved to Painesville, Ohio but returned to Cleveland in 1949, following his father’s death. Ellison frequently ran away from home, taking an array of odd jobs-including, by age 18, "tuna fisherman off the coast of Galveston, itinerant crop-picker down in New Orleans, hired gun for a wealthy neurotic, nitroglycerine truck driver in North Carolina, short order cook, cab driver, lithographer, book salesman, floorwalker in a department store, door-to-door brush salesman, and as a youngster, an actor in several productions at the Cleveland Play House".
Ellison attended Ohio State University for 18 months (1951-53) before being expelled. He has said the expulsion was for hitting a professor who had denigrated his writing ability, and over the next 40-odd years he sent that professor a copy of every story he published.
Ellison published two stories in the Cleveland News during 1949, and he sold a story to EC Comics early in the 1950s. Ellison moved to New York City in 1955 to pursue a writing career, primarily in science fiction. Over the next two years, he published more than 100 short stories and articles. He married Charlotte Stein in 1956, but they divorced four years later. He said of the marriage, "four years of hell as sustained as the whine of a generator."
In 1954, Ellison decided to write about youth gangs. To research the issue, he joined a street gang in the Red Hook, Brooklyn, area, under the alias "Phil ‘Cheech’ Beldone". His subsequent writings on the subject include the novel Web of the City/Rumble, the collection The Deadly Streets, and part of his memoir Memos from Purgatory.
Ellison was drafted into the United States Army, serving as a Ranger from 1957 to 1959. In 1960, he returned to New York, living at 95 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. After moving to Chicago, Ellison wrote for William Hamling’s Rogue magazine. As a book editor at Hamling’s Regency Books, Hamling published novels and anthologies by writers such as B. Traven, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Bloch, Philip José Farmer, and Clarence Cooper Jr. as well as Ellison.
In the late 1950s, Ellison wrote a number of erotic stories, such as "God Bless the Ugly Virgin" and "Tramp", which were later reprinted in Los Angeles-based girlie magazines. He first used the pseudonym Cordwainer Bird in July and August 1957, in two journals, each of which had accepted two of his stories. In each journal, one story was published under the name Harlan Ellison and the other under Cordwainer Bird. Later, as discussed in the Controversy section below, he used the pseudonym when he disagreed with the use or editing of his work.
Ellison moved to California in 1962, and subsequently began to sell his writing to Hollywood. He wrote the screenplay for The Oscar, starring Stephen Boyd and Elke Sommer. Ellison also sold scripts to many television shows: The Flying Nun, Burke’s Law, Route 66, The Outer Limits, Star Trek, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Cimarron Strip, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Ellison’s screenplay for the Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" has been considered the best of the 79 episodes in the series. During the late 1960s, Ellison wrote a column about television for the Los Angeles Free Press. Titled "The Glass Teat", the column addressed political and social issues and their portrayal on television at the time. The columns were gathered into two collections, The Glass Teat and The Other Glass Teat.
He participated in the 1965 Bloody Sunday March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1966, he married his third wife, Lory Patrick. The marriage lasted only seven weeks.
Also in 1966, in an article Esquire magazine would later name as the best magazine piece ever written, the journalist Gay Talese wrote about the goings-on around the enigmatic Frank Sinatra. The article, entitled "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold", briefly describes a clash between the young Harlan Ellison and Frank Sinatra, when the crooner took exception to Ellison’s boots during a billiards game. Talese is quoted as saying of the incident, "Sinatra probably forgot about it at once, but Ellison will remember it all his life."
Ellison was hired as a writer for Walt Disney Studios but was fired on his first day after Roy O. Disney overheard him in the studio commissary joking about making a pornographic animated film featuring Disney characters. Ellison recounted this incident in his book Stalking the Nightmare, as part 3 of an essay titled "The 3 Most Important Things in Life". At a talk at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Ellison stated he was walking the halls of Disney and was bored, until he found a screwdriver, at which time he walked throughout the facility tightening every screw he saw until he was confronted in the basement. His termination came later that day.
Harlan Ellison – Ellison Wonderland (read by Arthur Morey, Jim Meskimen, Stefan Rudnicki, Gabrielle de Cuir, Harlan Ellison, Alex Hyde-White, Richard Gilliland, Josh Olson, Stu Levin)
Harlan Ellison – The City On The Edge Of Forever (read by Jim Meskimen, Scott Brick, Stefan Rudnicki, Gabrielle de Cuir, Harlan Ellison, Alex Hyde-White, Orson Scott Card, Richard Gilliland, Richard J. Brewer, Veronica Scott, Christian O’Connell, Ryan C. Britt, Larry Nemecek)
Harlan Ellison – Web Of The City (read by Stefan Rudnicki)
Harlan Ellison – I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream (read by Harlan Ellison)
Harlan Ellison – The Deathbird And Other Stories (read by Harlan Ellison, Theodore Bikel, Stefan Rudnicki, Arte Johnson)
Harlan Ellison – Shatterday (read by John Albert)
Harlan Ellison – Shatterday And Other Stories (read by Harlan Ellison, Max Caufield, John Rubenstein, Kris Tabori, Stefan Rudnicki)
Harlan Ellison – Angry Candy (read by John Horton)
Harlan Ellison – Strange Wine (read by George Backman)
Harlan Ellison – A Boy And His Dog (read by Harlan Ellison)
Harlan Ellison – Spider Kiss (read by Brian Hemmingsen)
Harlan Ellison – Midnight In The Sunken Cathedral (read by Harlan Ellison)
Harlan Ellison – Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes (read by Harlan Ellison)
Harlan Ellison – Run For The Stars (read by Harlan Ellison)
Harlan Ellison – Soldier (read by John Sharian)
Harlan Ellison – Harlan! (read by Harlan Ellison)
Harlan Ellison – On The Road With Ellison (read by Harlan Ellison)
Harlan Ellison – Short Stories (read by Harlan Ellison, John Sharian, Peter J. Reynolds, Jim Zeiger, Christopher Hurt, Garrick Hagon, Mark Ashby, John Polk, Fred Major)